Anoka County History: Sharing the story of a local prisoner during WWII

By Rebecca Ebnet-Mavencamp
Contributing Writer

In an effort to make the exhibit hall space at the Anoka County History Center accessible to everyone, the Historical Society has dropped its per-visit charge in favor of accepting a donation according to visitor ability. We would like to take this opportunity to invite you to explore items of WWII currently on display, including the following story of Lewis Grant.

Grant was born in Linwood Township and grew up on the family farm. He was drafted into the Army and reported for duty April 7, 1942. After extensive training, Grant and his unit were sent to England where they staged for transport aboard the Queen Mary to France. They landed at Omaha Beach, three months after the landing there on D-Day.

From the moment of landing in France, Grant’s division was under fire. They were moving quickly through the countryside, so fast that even their ammunition was not able to keep up.

It was late in August of 1944 when he and several others were sent to scout out the enemy positions. Grant wrote about his capture in later years:

I didn’t see the machine gun dug in underneath an apple tree. The apple tree was down close to the ground and they were camouflaged pretty good in the fall of the year. One of my buddies got shot and one was calling for a medic. The medic came up there and they wanted help to get him back by this depression in the ground and I helped them. I handed my gun to another buddy and he laid it down and didn’t take it with him. I went back to get it and there were the German soldiers standing there with their guns cocked. It was a foolish thing on my part, but I’m still alive.

They took us and made us lay down on the ground till they got enough to take back and interrogate them.

The Germans took us back to interrogate us and I was the last one. That lasted late into the night. Then they took us on a train from Frankfort, down to Munich, down to Moosburg. There we were put into a big camp with thousands and thousands of Americans, British, Russians, Indians and Syrians. There was every walk of life in there. [Lewis was held in Stalag 7A, one of the larger POW camps in Germany, holding more than 8,000 prisoners.] They had big barbed wire around it and big towers where guards were and they had no mans land in front of the wire. You could only go so far.

We were treated well if you minded your P’s and Q’s. I was lucky. I went out of the camp to work on a farm. The German people out there were just like the people here. They didn’t want war and they didn’t have no desire to follow Hitler.

When the German guards heard the war was over, we walked away.

Grant was held captive for nine months, the last five of those months were spent working on a farm near the camp. When the prisoners reached the American lines, they were fed all the chicken they could eat and all the chocolate they could drink. Then they were sent to New York on a liberty ship where Grant caught a train to take him to Minneapolis.

Grant was discharged in November of 1945 and settled down to make a life in Linwood. He married, raised a family and worked for the power company in Elk River for 27 years before he retired.

Rebecca Ebnet-Mavencamp is the executive director of the Anoka County Historical Society.